Behind the Curtain

Parshas Pikudei

Shield the Ark with the Partition…Bring the Shulchan…Menorah…Mizbeiach… and place the screen at the Mishkan entrance.

Question One

Why does the Torah utilize different instructions for installing the different curtains? In regards to the inner curtain the Torah says “Shield.” When it comes to the outer curtain the Torah says “Place the screen.”

This phenomena repeats itself at the later installment: Moshe “Placed” the outer curtain. However when it comes to the Paroches, the inner curtain it says “He Placed and he Sheltered”. What is the meaning of this language difference? Do they perhaps have different function?

Question Two

Wouldn’t we expect to find the outer curtain the shielding. Normally shields are at not at the interior but at the exterior.

Question Three

We find that even though both curtains were made of identical colored threads, the curtains had stylistic differences. The inner curtain had designs woven into its fabric. The outer one had designs embroidered onto the material. Why the difference?

Answer

Partitions, barriers, and fences can have more than one function. Walls are primarily erected to create privacy. This is achieved by limiting the ability of anyone on the outside to observe what is happening inside. To avoid the prying eyes of the public we fence ourselves in, thereby excluding outsiders.

Sometimes walls have a purpose which is quite the opposite. We may be out of the public eye on some remote mountain, but a barrier is needed. Being enclosed together with someone we love, generates a feeling of closeness and intimacy. This effect is produced by “shielding”. By obliterating outside influences and disturbances, the focus becomes centered on the other person. In other words, we are not just keeping outsiders out, we are keeping the insiders focused on the inside.

The outer partition took the chambers of the Mishkan out of the public eye. It fulfilled the purpose of most walls – creating privacy. A level of Glory was present inside the Mishkan and it would be unbecoming for the Mishkan to be exposed.

The inner sanctuary was a place where the focus was specifically on our relationship with the Divine. Inside the chamber were Keruvim, the Talmud tells us that through the intertwining of these sculptures, demonstrating the love between male and female echoed the love Hashem has towards the Jewish people.Hence the inner partition – the Paroches screened the intimate relationship of Hashem resting within the Jewish camp.

This is why respectively different verbs are employed in the hanging of the curtains. With the outer curtain the Torah says “Place the screen” a pure technical instruction. However with the inner curtain the Torah says “Shield with a curtain” connoting that this was not merely a technical barrier but create an area shielded from the outside world, a dimension where the focus is solely on the Divine.

We can likewise explain the different designs that appeared on the different curtains. When weaving textiles the threads are meshed together signifying unity and intertwinement. While embroidery which stands on the edge of the fabric exists as a separate entity, demonstrating this curtain was just that, to keep people out. Thus the outer was embroidered and the inner woven.

Lesson

When we look at walls of our house, we should think these are not just to keep out the public, but the walls of our house enable us to be focused on our family.

Story

Two wealthy Jews, Zimmel Epstein and Koppel Halperin once brought a suit for judgement before Reb Zev, the Rabbi of Bialystok. Reb Zev knew them, and had always accorded them each great respect. On the morning that their case would be judged, Reb Zev’s shamash informed him that the litigants had arrived and were waiting outside.

“Bring them in!” Reb Zev ordered. The Rabbi then pulled his tallis over his head, to bar any distractions as he judged the case.

When Zimmel and Koppel entered his room, Reb Zev did not greet them as usual. He called out, in a cold tone, “Koppel and Zimmel, who is the plaintiff?” Both of them were surprised at the Rabbi’s lack of customary courtesy toward them.

“I’m the plaintiff,” Zimmel choked out. “State your case,” Reb Zev commanded. Zimmel detailed his case, quailing before Reb Zev’s stern manner. When asked, Koppel presented his arguments, just as nervous as Zimmel had been. After hearing them both out, Reb Ze’ev declared his verdict. He then asked Zimmel and Koppel if they each accept his judgement, to which they readily agreed.

The rabbi removed the tallis from his eyes and acknowledged the two men in his typical, more effusive, fashion. “Shalom Aleichem, Reb Zimmel! Shalom Aleichem Reb Koppel! I had to obscure myself behind my tallis and act coldly in order that my internal focus would be on the pure truth”.

Weekly Halachah

On Shabbos one may not drape blankets over chairs to create a “tent”.

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